Professor Sullivan's interests are in astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and the history of astronomy. As Chair of the Steering Group of the UW's Astrobiology Program, he is one of the leaders of the UW's interdisciplinary graduate program and related efforts in Astrobiology. For example, together with Professor John Baross (Oceanography) he edited a graduate-level textbook Planets and Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology, published by Cambridge University Press in 2007.
SETI activity has included a collaboration with the Serendip group, using the Arecibo 1000-foot dish for an all-sky search for a wide variety of signal modulation at 21 cm. This seti@home project has involved more than 4 million participants on the Web since its launch in 1999. History of astronomy research emphasizes the twentieth century, in particular the development of early radio astronomy and of ideas on extraterrestrial life. In 2009 he published Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy (Cambridge University Press), which examines in detail the first decade of worldwide radio and radar astronomy. For further information on this project, click here. A biography of William Herschel is a long-term project just starting. As an adjunct professor in the History Department, he also teaches history of science.
Other interests include the battle against radio interference and light pollution; he is active in the Intern ational Dark-Sky Association and its local chapter Dark Skies Northwest. He co-edited the volume Preserving the Astronomical Environment (2001), and is working on an improved version of his "Earth at Night" image and poster. He also studies the relationships between astronomy and other aspects of culture, such as art, literature, religion, history, and astrology.
Sundials are a special and peculiar passion. He has designed many sundials, one of which (a MarsDial, the first extraterrestrial sundial) landed on Mars in 2004 as part of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. He has been involved in the design of many public sundials (e.g., on our Physics/Astronomy Building), and aims to make the Seattle region the sundial capital of North America. Detailed information and maps on all Northwest sundials are here.